Bhutan’s 31-year-old king has married a student 10 years his junior in a colourful ceremony that has seen the remote Himalayan nation declare three-days of national holiday to honour the event.
Thursday’s wedding, showcasing the rich Buddhist culture of the largely insular country, took place amid clouds of incense and chanting by monks.
The popular King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck – an Oxford graduate who came to power in 2008 at the start of democracy in Bhutan – crowned his queen, Jetsun Pema, at the end of a series of rituals in the 17th-century fortified monastery chosen for the occasion.
Pema is a daughter of an airline pilot widely admired for her beauty and her impact on the love-struck monarch.
The celebrations began at 8:20am – a time set by royal astrologers – when the king walked into the courtyard of the monastery in the old capital of Punakha.
Wearing the royal yellow sash, he proceeded up the high staircase inside.
After a brief purification ceremony, the couple walked hand-in-hand, smiling to the inner sanctum of the monastery where an hour of blessings, prostrations and prayers culminated with the queen taking the throne.
Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from Punakha on Thursday, said the people he had spoken to told him that Pema is “perfectly cut out to be a queen”.
“One girl said she had international looks and that’s an advantage,” he said. “There’s been a great deal of excitement and there’s a great deal of reverence for the monarchy and certainly a lot of interest and appreciation in this young couple.”
The wedding captivated the nation, which was growing impatient with its king’s lack of urgency to tie the knot.
Children composed poems, flight attendants practised celebratory dances and posters of the couple were almost everywhere.